Frequently Asked Questions

Below are the most frequently asked questions from our Safe to Trade Scheme members. You can use the quick links below to jump to a section, and use the back to top to return to here.

Last updated 8th January 2021

PPE and Face Coverings
Social Distancing
Test & Trace
Remote Working
Health & Safety


What is a novel coronavirus?

A novel coronavirus is a new coronavirus that has not been previously identified. The virus causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), is not the same as the coronaviruses that commonly circulate among humans and cause mild illness, like the common cold.

Why is it called COVID-19?

On February 11, 2020 the World Health Organization announced an official name for the disease that is causing the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak, first identified in Wuhan China. The new name of this disease is coronavirus disease 2019, abbreviated as COVID-19. In COVID-19, ‘CO’ stands for ‘corona,’ ‘VI’ for ‘virus,’ and ‘D’ for disease. Formerly, this disease was referred to as “2019 novel coronavirus” or “2019-nCoV”.

There are many types of human coronaviruses including some that commonly cause mild upper-respiratory tract illnesses. COVID-19 is a new disease, caused by a novel (or new) coronavirus that has not previously been seen in humans.

Should I attend work if I have symptoms of coronavirus?

If you know or suspect you are infected with coronavirus, you should follow the current public health advice. If your symptoms worsen, seek medical attention. Be aware that when unwell, your judgement is likely to be clouded, so don’t simply continue to self-treat if your condition worsens.

I have a long-term health condition. What should I do?

If you have a pre-existing health condition that places you at increased risk, you should discuss working arrangements with your employer who should try to ensure that additional measures are in place to protect you.

When is a person infectious?

The infectious period may begin one to two days before symptoms appear, but people are likely most infectious during the symptomatic period, even if symptoms are mild and very non-specific. The infectious period is now estimated to last for 7-12 days in moderate cases and up to two weeks on average in severe cases.

How severe is COVID 19 infection?

Data from the World Health Organisation shows that around 20% of diagnosed COVID-19 cases are hospitalised and 3% have severe illness. Hospitalisation rates are higher for those aged 60 years and above, and for those with other underlying health conditions.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19 infection?

The NHS have identified 3 main symptoms of COVID-19, these are

  • high temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
  • a new, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
  • a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste – this means you've noticed you cannot smell or taste anything, or things smell or taste different to normal

If someone has any of the main symptoms of coronavirus, they must:

  1. Get a test to check if they have coronavirus as soon as possible.
  2. Stay at home and do not have visitors until they receive their test result – only leaving their home to have a test.
  3. Anyone they live with, and anyone in their support bubble, must also stay at home until the test result is received.

Are some people more at risk than others?

People above 70 years of age and those with underlying health conditions (e.g. hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease and cancer) are considered to be more at risk of developing severe symptoms. Men in these groups also appear to be at a slightly higher risk than females. Other factors, such as being from a Black, Asian or minority ethnic background, or being from a poorer area have also been shown to raise the risk of developing more severe symptoms.

What are the requirements of self-isolating?

Self-isolation is when you do not leave your home because you have or might have coronavirus (COVID-19).

It is a legal requirement for someone to self-isolate if they have tested positive for COVID-19 or they have been told to do so by NHS Test and Trace.

If a person tested positive and they have symptoms they must self-isolate for 10 days from when the symptoms started.

If the person has not displayed symptoms, they must self-isolate for 10 days from when they had the test. If the person starts to display symptoms whilst self-isolating, the 10 days restarts from when the symptoms started.

There is community testing where I live, do I need to self-isolate after this test?

Community testing is a tool to help identify individuals who have COVID-19 but are not displaying symptoms. You only need to self-isolate if the test returns a positive result.

How can I avoid getting infected?

There are many things that can be done to reduce the risk of getting infected with COVID-19. These include:

  • trying to stay at least 2 metres (3 steps) away from anyone you do not live with (or anyone not in your support bubble)
  • wash your hands with soap and water often – do this for at least 20 seconds
  • use hand sanitiser gel if soap and water are not available
  • wash your hands as soon as you get home
  • cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze
  • put used tissues in the bin immediately and wash your hands afterward
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth if your hands are not clean
  • wearing a face mask in indoor public areas or were you might come into contact with others.
  • keeping up to date and following all government guidance.

PPE and Face Coverings

I normally use PPE to control a process risk in my workplace. What can I do if I cannot get hold of my normal supply?

If you are unable to purchase PPE for a specific work activity, then you may be able to find an alternative supplier or consider how the activity can be changed so that it can take place safely in line with government guidance. A new risk assessment should be undertaken. Unfortunately, if PPE has been identified within the existing risk assessment as a necessary control measure and alternative measures cannot be found, then the activity will have to cease.

When should a face covering be worn?

As the rules for face coverings are changing often please check these links directly;

Northern Ireland




Do employees working in the kitchen or back of house have to wear a face mask?

The requirement to wear a face mask is for those employees working in the public area, employees back of house only need to wear a facemask when they might come into to contact with the public, for example a chef visiting a guest table, or if the risk assessment identifies the need to wear a mask, such as when social distancing cannot be maintained.

If a physical screen has been created between the employee and the guest, then the employee is not required to wear a face mask whilst behind the screen.

Do employees need to wear face coverings when working outside?

A face covering must be worn in enclosed public areas, so are not required when working outdoors. However, given that wearing a face covering is believed to reduce the risk of spreading coronavirus, the wearing of them by staff outside is encouraged.

An employee refuses to wear a face covering because they are claustrophobic, what do I need to do?

People are exempt from wearing a face covering if doing so would cause them distress. It is recommended that a note is made on the employee record if they are exempt from wearing a face mask. An employee not wearing a face covering may give cause for concern to guests and perhaps even hostility towards the employee. For this reason, it would be good practice to identify a role for the employee that means they do not need to wear a face covering, for example working back of house or behind a fixed screen.

Are face visors acceptable face coverings?

Face visors do not provide adequate protection against the spread of coronavirus and therefore are not accepted as face coverings. If an employee wears a face visor, they must also wear a face covering. A face covering must cover the nose and mouth, be well fitting and clean.

Do I need to provide face coverings for employees?

Face coverings are not deemed PPE, therefore initially the guidance stated that they did not need to be provided to employees. However, with the mandatory wearing of face coverings in certain work environments this guidance has now changed. Employers must provide face coverings for employees if their job role requires the wearing of one. Employees can choose to wear the covering provided by their employer or provide their own, as long as the covering covers the mouth and nose, is well fitting and clean. The WHO recommends face coverings comprise of 3 layers. Sufficient face coverings must be provided to ensure that they can be changed if they become wet or contaminated.

When is it acceptable for a guest not to wear a face covering?

Guests do not need to wear a face covering when sat to eat or drink. They must put the face covering back on once they have finished eating or drinking.

There are some very specific exemptions when a face covering does not need to be worn, these exemptions can be found at

Northern Ireland




Social Distancing

Do my employees need to physically distance in staff accommodation?

Where possible, employees should only provide single occupancy accommodation for workers. Where this is not possible, occupancy in each shared space should be as low as possible, and restricted to the same groups, preferably those who also work together. Consideration will also need to be given to measures for maintaining physical distancing in communal spaces such as kitchens and living areas in the accommodation. Employers will need to take steps to ensure all occupants understand the risks of COVID-19 and the measures needed to prevent the spread of the virus.

Physical distancing and hygiene measures should be reinforced through training and the display of posters throughout the accommodation.

Employees will also need to make arrangements which enable symptomatic workers to self-isolate within the accommodation. This will require provision of single occupancy accommodation which workers can be moved into as soon as they report symptoms.

We need to use a passenger lift, but can’t socially distance, what do we do?

Identify times of the day when the lift will be in frequent use – e.g. start/end of day and at break times. Consider rearranging working patterns, reducing the number of people on site and other measures such as staggering start/finish/break times to reduce the numbers needing to use a lift at any one time. This should also reduce queues for lifts where people may congregate. People who are fit enough to walk upstairs should be encouraged to do so.

When people use lifts, they should face the sides of the lift car with their backs towards other passengers. Mark spaces on lift floors using tape to help people keep their distance from other passengers and to remind them to face away from people in the lift. You may also need to reduce safe lift capacities to do this. Ensure regular cleaning and sanitation of lift controls and the passenger car and consider placing hand sanitiser near lift controls/push buttons with signs encouraging people to use it.

In Scotland, the use of the lift should be restricted to essential persons only and only one person at a time to use.

How many customers can I allow into my premises?

This will depend on the size of your premise and must be risk assessed. You must allow for 2 metre social distancing or 1 metre with risk mitigation.

Can groups of more than 6 people go swimming?
Can we travel to site in one vehicle?

Findings from outbreaks has identified that people travelling together in vehicles is a common route of transmission for the virus.

Where insurance allows, use individual vehicles. If workers have no option but to travel together you should ensure journeys are with the same individuals, maintain good ventilation with passengers facing away from one another to reduce the risk of transmission. Vehicles should be frequently cleaned with an emphasis on handles and other high-touch surfaces. Ensure hands are washed on arrival and social distancing is maintained when entering the premises.

Where insurance allows, use individual vehicles. If workers have no option but to travel together you should ensure journeys are with the same individuals, maintain good ventilation with passengers facing away from one another to reduce the risk of transmission. Vehicles should be frequently cleaned with an emphasis on handles and other high-touch surfaces. Ensure hands are washed on arrival and social distancing is maintained when entering the premises.

It should be remembered that traveling together in a small vehicle can be considered as close contact and therefore if one of those travelling in the vehicle is later confirmed as having COVID, all passengers who shared the vehicle with them may be required to self-isolate.

Can a venue hold a wake for over 6 people?

In England wakes can be held for up to 6 people to attend.

In Wales wakes in:

  • level 1 can have a maximum 50 people indoors and maximum 100 people outdoors
  • Level 2 & 3 can have a maximum 15 people indoors and maximum 30 people outdoors
  • Level 4 no wakes are permitted

In Scotland 20 people can attend a wake in those areas still in Tier 3. Mainland Scotland has moved to a temporary lockdown where wakes and post funeral gatherings are not permitted at this time.

Wakes in Northern Ireland can be held and numbers attending are dependent on the site specific risk assessment, but wakes are not permitted during lockdown.

Such occasions will understandably involve people who know one another well and who may wish to greet and engage with one another. The need for physical distancing, hygiene and other mitigating actions should be carefully followed. By both the venue hosting and the those attending.

Can a venue hold a wedding reception?

In England, weddings can be attended by 6 people but must only take place in exceptional circumstances.

In Scotland the maximum number of people at a wedding reception is 5 (including the celebrant) , wedding receptions are not allowed. For those areas that remain at Level 3, weddings and receptions may be attended by upto 20 people.

In Wales wedding receptions are not permitted at this time.

In Northern Ireland, ceremonies are limited to 25 people but receptions are not permitted during lockdown.

In the Republic of Ireland there is a maximum of 6 guests.

The maximum number does not include the venue employees or third-party catering staff.

I run a takeaway, how does the 11pm rule apply to me?

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland takeaways must close at 11pm.

In Scotland takeaways can operate as normal.


What are the minimum requirements for cleaning hands?

Washing your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds is the best way to clean hands. Regular hand washing for 20 seconds and/or sanitising is the main way to clean any potential contamination from your hands and dry them with paper towels or hand dryers. If soap and water isn’t available, then alcohol hand sanitiser is recommended.

Test and Trace

Do I need to collect information about my staff and customers for Test and Trace?

In England members of the public are encouraged to use the NHS Test and Trace App. If a customer uses the app, the business does not have to collect their details. If customers or other visitors do not use the app, then the information must be collected by another means.

The following information must be collected by the venue and retained for 21 days if the Test and Trace app is not used by the person visiting -

  • The name of the customer or visitor. If there is more than one person then you can record the name of the ‘lead member’ of the group and number of people in the group
  • A contact phone number for each customer or the lead member of the group
  • An email address if the customer is unable to provide a contact number
  • A postal address if the person is unable to provide an email
  • Date of visit, arrival time and, if possible, departure time
  • For employees, a record of the shifts worked must also be maintained. It is of benefit if a record of where in the business that person worked is also kept.

    In Wales the Test and Trace app is encouraged but the business must still continue to collect the customer information even if they have used the app. In Wales it is also a requirement that businesses take reasonable methods to ensure the contact information collected is accurate. Customers need to provided verification of their name when completing contact details. Examples of documents that can be used for verification include drivers licence, bank or credit cards and other forms of identification accepted under licensing law.

    In Scotland the Test and Trace app is available but it does not have the ability for customers to scan QR codes or ‘check in’ to a venue. The venue must collect the guest information as it was previously and hold for 21 days.

What if someone refuses to give their details when visiting?

Entry to the premises must be refused if the visitor or guest does not provide the required information.

Is it the guest who contacts the business if they have COVID-19 or NHS Test and Trace?

Guests or employees will be contacted by the NHS Test and Trace service if they test positive for coronavirus (COVID-19). They will be asked where they have been recently and who they have been in close contact with. This will help the NHS contact anyone who may have caught the virus from them. Therefore, it will be the NHS Test and Trace service who contact you in regards a guest or team member.

I have had a notification through the Test and Trace app that I may been in contact with someone with COVID, do I need to self-isolate?

A person is only legally obliged to self-isolate if contacted by NHS Test and Trace. The legal obligation to self-isolate does not apply when a person is told to via the NHS COVID-19 smartphone app.

What action should I take if contacted by Track and Trace?

Please refer to the Shield Safety Group guidance ‘Test and Trace’.

When is it considered that someone has been in close contact?

Contract Tracers consider close contact to have occurred if people have been within 2 metres of one another for 15 minutes or longer or within 1 metre for 1 minute. These times are for single exposure and are not cumulative. For example, someone would not be considered a close contact if they had been within 2 metres of someone 15 times in a day, but for only a minute each time.

Employees keep their mobile phones in their lockers, does this cause a problem with the Test and Trace app?

If phones are located near one another it is possible that the Test and Trace app will falsely identify close contacts. It is recommended that mobile phones are either turned off completely or the tracing function on the app is turned off when phones are in lockers. Displaying posters or notices reminding employees of this action may help ensure this happens.

If an outbreak is declared, what steps can I take to support the investigation?

If an outbreak is declared, then the business must have a Single Point of Contact (SPOC). This person is responsible for liaising and providing information to the public health agency.

Experience from crisis management gives some useful ideas on how the SPOC can be most effective, some tips are:

  • Identify what tasks from their normal role the SPOC can relinquish. They will not be able to fulfil the role of SPOC fully whilst completing their normal tasks.
  • Appoint a deputy to support the SPOC, recognising they will have days off and might be away from the business.
  • If a multi-site operation, consider how other sites can support the unit which has been impacted. You may not wish to draft in employees from other sites, because of the concern of them becoming infected and in turn taking coronavirus back to their site. However, there may be tasks that can be completed remotely that would assist the impacted business.
  • Maintain an events log. This diary should document communication and decisions made during the outbreak. This can be useful to go back and review the decision made and help others learn from the outbreak.
  • Call on others to provide information. For example, the shifts worked by team will be of interest during the early stages of the investigation. Can this information be provided by the payroll provider or a central HR function, if one exists?

Further information can be found for

Remote Working

Do you have any support for employees working remotely?

You should

  • Keep remote and on-site employees connected
  • Send updates to employees when the situation changes
  • Consider the mental health impact of working remotely
  • Provide the right equipment for people to work from home


I think the air conditioning at work is a risk to my health – should my employer do something about it?

General government guidance is to provide good ventilation in workplaces to reduce the risks from coronavirus. The risk of air conditioning spreading coronavirus is extremely low. If you are using a fully mechanical centralised air conditioning system that removes and circulates air into multiple rooms then it is best practice to avoid recirculation of air where possible. All of these types of systems should have the facility to turn off recirculation and use a fresh air supply. If you are using an air conditioning system in individual rooms or a portable unit, these operate on recirculation and should be allowed to operate. Most air conditioning systems do not need adjustment, however where systems serve multiple buildings, or you are unsure, advice should be sought from your heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) engineers or advisers. Good ventilation, including using air conditioning, is encouraged to reduce the likelihood of the spread of the virus.

Health and Safety

Are there new legal obligations arising for employers?

Fire drills are a part of your company’s general fire precaution plan and are one of the ways you can ensure that you have all the correct procedures in place should a fire break out. The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) have published guidance to help you manage the fire risks in your business.

We have a fire drill due, which will cause some crowding on escape routes. Am I allowed to postpone?

Fire drills are a part of your company’s general fire precaution plan and are one of the ways you can ensure that you have all the correct procedures in place should a fire break out. The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) have published guidance to help you manage the fire risks in your business, please find it here.

If there’s a chance an employee contracted coronavirus through work, do we need to complete a RIDDOR report?

There are occasions when you may need to report if an employee has contracted coronavirus through their work. Please see the guidance available on the HSE website about RIDDOR reporting in relation to the coronavirus outbreak.

An employee has made me aware that they have COVID-19, do I need to report this to anyone?

There is no need to report an individual case. In England, if there are 5 or more cases in the workplace in a 14 day period, then you must contact the Public Health Team for your area and they will advise on what action needs to be taken.

For all other areas you must report if there are 2 or more confirmed cases in a 14 day period.

Do I need to review how First Aid is administered?

In regards first aid, please point your first aiders/responders to This guidance considers the risk of transmission when administering CPR.

When administering first aid, it is unlikely that the 2-metre social distancing can be maintained. Where possible, ask the injured person to administer their own first aid, following instruction from the first aider. If this is not possible, then try to avoid face to face contact. Consider the need for increased PPE within the first aid kit, to include disposable apron and face covering.

The first aider is to thoroughly wash their hand after administering first aid.

It is also suggested you review the provision of first aid in the workplace. With reduced teams, it is quite possible the number of available first aiders have reduced. Consider training other team members on first aid and consult with other businesses in the area to see if first aid provision can be shared.

Do I need to do anything with regards Fire Risk Assessment?

You will need to review and, if necessary, update the content of your Fire Risk Assessment to reflect any changes in layout or occupancy of the building.

Do I need to do anything different with regards Manual Handling

Review manual handling practices to take into account COVID-19 controls. If possible, avoid the task and see if other approaches can be used, for example rather than moving a piece of equipment to clean behind it, can a wet and dry hoover be used? If the task cannot be avoided and a two-person lift is needed, plan the task to reduce face to face positioning and reduce the time people are in close contact. This does not mean rushing the lift or carry, but planning it effectively.

If regular manual handling tasks are anticipated, then team should work in bubbles.


Do you have any guidelines we can use for a suspected COVID-19 infected guest who may have visited the premises?
Can you please share any documentation/guidelines to support with re-opening and COVID-19? In particular we need a Risk Assessment template and any best practice guidelines you have created.
Should we be keeping all cutlery and condiments behind the counter and handing them to customers on request?

There is no legal requirement that you should keep cutlery and condiments behind the counter and handing them to customers. However, best practice and recommended control from the government is to keep as many items off the table as possible and reduce hand contact points.

It is a legal requirement for you to have a COVID-19 risk assessment and this should detail how the risk from items such as condiments, cutlery and menus are managed. The main control measure would be to have a hand sanitiser (minimum alcohol content 60%) on the entrance to the premises and signage displayed requesting customers collecting drinks/food to use it. This would ensure all customers touching surfaces and equipment have sanitised hands. If takeaway, another control measure to consider would be to put all food/drinks/cutlery/condiments in a takeaway bag and pass to customer.

Does the Safe to Trade include COVID-19 return to work forms and a plan template to ensure the colleagues can undertake tasks safely?

Safe to Trade does include a return to work questionnaire and there is a model risk assessment be used. When considering employees returning to work, the following points should be included -

  • Is a phased return to work needed? This maybe because of personal circumstances or recognising that colleague's stamina has reduced.
  • Are they aware of the requirements from risk assessments? The findings from both COVID specific and general risk assessments that have been updated to recognise the risk from COVID must be communicated.
  • The need for refresher training on skills, such as knife safety and manual handling identified.
  • Document and discuss any concerns brought up by the employee.

Do we have a risk assessment for a clinically vulnerable person returning to work?

We have not created a specific risk assessment for a clinically vulnerable person, but the following points should be covered when completing one -

  • Observe strict social distancing- maintain 2 metre distance from others in the work place. Floor markings are in place identifying 2 metre space, and must be observed by the employee and colleagues.
  • Restrict the number of guests and colleagues allowed inside the work-place to enable this. Limit interaction with guests- complete predominately duties which are not customer-facing.
  • Protective screens are installed across counters providing a barrier between employee and guests and reducing the risk of person to person transmission.

Do we have to take temperatures of customers, employees or other visitors?

There is no requirement to take temperatures of customers, employees or other visitors. It is believed that there is a high incident of asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19, meaning that taking temperatures is not an effective method of preventing people carrying the virus from entering the premises. Further, persons may have elevated temperature due to the weather or physical exertion, this means that false positives could occur and persons excluded from the premises without there being a risk.

Are there any learnings from outbreaks that have happened and been investigated?

We work closely with Environmental Health Practitioners who are leading investigations into work place outbreaks. The early learnings from these outbreaks is the risk of person to person spread in the back of house areas. Control for the front of house employees has generally found to be good, with comprehensive risk assessments and mitigating actions in place.

However, it is just as important to identify areas back of house where employees may meet and run the risk of spreading the virus. For example, communal areas such as smoking shelters, employee rest areas and toilets. When identifying such areas, it is necessary to recognise the formal rest areas and also the informal areas that the team may have created.

Once the areas have been identified, they must be risk assessed and adequate control, such as enhanced cleaning and social distancing must be implemented.

The value of maintaining working groups or bubbles has also be proven in a number of outbreak investigations. By ensuring the team work in discreet groups or bubbles, the number of employees who have had to self-isolate has been limited and the business has had sufficient staff to continue trading.